The Food of Spain: Marquesas

MarquesasSome times life asks you to start with dessert and these little Marquesas on pg 494 called my name as I flipped through ‘The Food of Spain’. I’m sure I’m not the only one who, with a cup a tea and new cook book in hand skips to the back page first, and reads the book in reverse order!

These little marquesas (Almond Cupcakes) are bites of soft almond goodness. It’s a safe bet that if you have nuts and eggs lurking in your pantry, every Spanish dessert that Claudia Roden shares in her book is only a mixing bowl and whisk away from landing in your oven before you can say ‘Barcelona’.

Scented with lemon zest, I’ve adapted this recipe a few ways using coconut sugar (yes!) and increasing the zest. Coconut sugar has distinct caramel undertones, making it a great match with almonds and lemon.  Claudia’s marquesas are served dusted with icing sugar, but once these beauties came out of the oven I topped them with some desiccated coconut & whipped coconut cream.

Marquesas

Makes 30 small or 15 average size cupcakes

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 tsp lemon juice

200g coconut sugar

Another 2 large eggs, separated

grated zest of 2 lemons

50g of cornflour (make sure it’s Gluten Free)

300g ground almonds

2 Tbsp unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 can of coconut cream

Extra lemon zest for decorating.

In Advance:

Place the can of coconut cream in the fridge for least 12 hrs before baking. It needs to be properly chilled to make the whipped coconut cream.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C.

In a large bowl, beat the first three egg whites with 4 tablespoons of coconut sugar and lemon juice, until stiff. Have patience as the coconut sugar takes a while to incorporate to the egg white. It will happen. Keep your beater on high and you will end up with shiny latte’ coloured egg whites, stiff enough that they will hold their shape if you turn the bowl over your head.

In a separate bowl, beat the 5 egg yolks and one of the remaining egg whites with the left over coconut sugar till creamy. (You will have one egg white remaining, put it in the fridge to use later, omelettes are always an easy option). Then add the lemon zest and cornflour to your creamed sugar and beat thoroughly. Mix through the ground almonds until you have a thick paste, it won’t hurt to add a splash of water if the mixture is too dry or crumbly.

Fold the whipped egg whites very gently into the almond base and drop small spoonfuls into paper baking cups. Fill them 3/4 full as the mixture will rise a little. If using mini paper cups, bake for 10-13 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes if using average size paper cups, and cover with foil if browning too quickly on top while cooking.

They will be very soft when taken out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.

To decorate, pulse the desiccated coconut in a food processor till powdery and sprinkle over the warm cakes. While cooling make the whipped topping. Open the chilled coconut cream and scoop out the firm layer risen to the top (save the separated coconut water below to add to smoothie). Beat the ‘cream’ with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Dollop spoonfuls of cream onto cooled marquesas and sprinkle with some extra lemon zest.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free/Dairy Free

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Molasses, anyone?

I never thought of myself as a sweet-tooth before, but January consisted of all things cake. After tossing up between a few recipes for days undecided, I took the plunge and made both. One for me. One for my sister. Of course having made neither cake before it was fate that one of them would be a little “different”, and of course it was that cake which, in all it’s glorious golden brown beauty, I left at my little sister’s place, before taste testing. Just my luck!

So to begin, both cake recipes were from 101cookbooks.com, an amazing website I check regularly for inspiration:

Maple Huckleberry Coffee Cake & Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cake

It was the Old-Fashioned Blueberry cake that let me down. Not the recipe’s fault, by my lack of understanding of the key ingredient – MOLASSES.

Doesn’t it sound good:  blueberry’s and molasses?

So when I stumbled across a jar of  “Molasses” quite by chance I knew what I had to make. My initial warning should have been when I popped the jar open for my first taste the of the black syrup. Being Australian bred I had never tasted the stuff, only ever read about it in childhood books, and assumed it was rather like treacle or golden syrup. It was sweet but the predominant flavour was salty aniseed, reminding me very much of salty Dutch liquorice.  The recipe also called for a further 2/3rds of a teaspoon of salt, and it went also.

The batter became a lovely warm brown, the sweet blueberries gave it a splash of colour, and then into the pan ready to go. The batter in the bowl was strong, but I assumed cooking would balance it out letting the sweetness of the berries kick in.

It came out of the oven so pretty, oozing soft blueberry juice. As it cooled I debated with Tim how it was only fair for me to taste test one piece before I gave it to my guinea-pig sister. Tim’s power of persuasion held sway and I eventually agreed that a whole cake did look better than one already cut up into pieces to disguise the fact a small morsel had been removed. It smelt lovely. So after cooling I wrapped it and deposited at my sisters, leaving it outside in the blue chest of draws under the patio as no one was home.

A few days later I spoke to Hannah.

“So how was the cake?”

“Err um… well the blueberries were fantastic, but it was SO salty!”

Surprise, surprise.

I have since discovered I used Black-strap Molasses, which turns out to be a very different cookie to Molasses. For now I have large jar of the stuff I need to use, and I’m tempting fate by considering tweaking the original recipe, only a few teaspoons this time, and the rest golden syrup. This time I’ll try a piece first.